Feel Guilty When You Say No? Say This, Instead

Feel Guilty When You Say No? Say This, Instead

One of the greatest aspects of owning an online business has to be the ability to set your own schedule. For me, time freedom—setting my own hours—was the big dream, and I know plenty of other online business owners who want the same thing. But if your dream got a little tarnished with the harsh reality that being an entrepreneur is time-consuming work, you’re not alone. And if you have a hard time saying no, then managing your time becomes even more challenging. Which is why I want to teach you an easy way to say no (even if you’re a people pleaser).

“But,”—your IRL friends say—”You work for yourself! Can’t you come out to lunch with us? Can’t you volunteer for EVERY SINGLE ONE of your kids’ field trips? You have all the time in the world! Right?”

Well, yes… and no.

The fact is, you have all the time in the world regardless of what your job looks like. Whether you’re a corporate 9-5-er, Queen of the Side Gig, or you’re a full-time online entrepreneur, you have the same 24 hours available every day. And while your available weekly 168 hours will look different from someone else’s depending on your work and life responsibilities, it’s still 168 hours.

No matter your work situation, if you want control over your time, you have to prioritize and set boundaries. 

If you’re trying to regain a healthy work life balance, one where you aren’t overwhelmed with obligations, then setting boundaries starts with knowing the danger of the word “yes.” I’m talking to you, people pleasers.

If you find yourself thinking, “When I say no, I feel guilty” or “I’m just not good at setting boundaries,” or “I can’t stand to disappoint people!,” hear me out.

I’m a real people pleaser. It’s a huge (I mean HUGE) part of why I’ve chosen my line of work. If I hear the words, “Can you help me with…” my ears perk up like a dog hearing his kibble hit the bowl. There’s not much that gets me more ramped up than my clients saying, “I’m hoping you can help me figure this out.” I love helping people solve problems.

But I’ve also learned that saying “Yes” automatically to most requests leads directly to a seriously crappy work-life balance. I’ve learned it the hard way. And it sucks.

Here’s the part that might surprise you, though:

“Yes” and “No” are not your only two options.

Contrary to what some business leaders might tell you, you don’t have to eliminate the word “yes” from your vocabulary. Even if you’re a people pleaser. But if you’re looking for an easier way to say no—one that feels more attainable or more polite—build the habit of saying, “Let me think about that.”

Give yourself the gift of time to consider requests. If you were to take on the request, where would it fit in your schedule? What would you have to move or remove? Would it make you feel overwhelmed? And does the new request serve you and your goals better than something else that you’ve already planned for?

Going through this process of evaluating new requests teaches you to consider your time and prioritize. And once you decide where it falls on the priority list, then you can choose whether to say “yes,” “no,” or even something else like “yes, but with these limitations…”

How does this sit with you? Does “let me think about that” feel more reasonable than assuming that “yes” and “no” are your only options? What are some of your other favorite ways to set boundaries with your time? Hit up my DMs and let me hear about them!

Want even more help with time management? Pick up my free time-audit tool so you have a super-clear picture of how much time you ACTUALLY have available.

3 Myths (and One Truth) About Hiring a Virtual Assistant

3 Myths (and One Truth) About Hiring a Virtual Assistant

I talk with women who own creative online businesses literally every day, so let me tell you—if you’ve said to yourself, “I know I need to hire a Virtual Assistant, but…” believe me. You are NOT alone. There’s no shortage of ways you could finish that sentence. That is, there are a lot of reasons why you may feel like you can’t hire help in your business. And some of those reasons are valid. But many of them aren’t. Feel like you need to hire a Virtual Assistant, but you’re not convinced yet? Here are 3 of the most common myths about hiring a Virtual Assistant (and one big truth).

Show of hands: how many of you online entrepreneurs—when you started creating your online business—couldn’t wait to get bogged down in administrative tasks? OK, so that’s a ridiculous question, obviously. When you dreamt up your business, you were thinking of the ways you wanted to share your mission with the world. You wanted to help people solve a problem, create a beautiful space, or create meaningful results in their lives.

You started your business to help change lives, NOT to spend time on admin, right?

When you’re in your “honeymoon” phase of business development, you’re not envisioning the late nights responding to client emails, the “just let me finish this one newsletter before I start dinner” frenzy, the hours and energy that you’ll spend on business support work that really isn’t the reason you started this business in the first place.

But before long, that honeymoon phase is over and you ARE bogged down in management and administration. 

Where do you even start with finding great online business support? Fellow online entrepreneurs and Facebook groups can be a wealth of knowledge on the subject—for better or worse! Hiring a virtual assistant or other business support services (like a project manager or online business manager) can be daunting. So let me help make it easier.

I’m here to debunk 3 common myths you’ve probably heard about hiring a virtual assistant for your online business.

MYTH #1: “I’M SAVING TIME JUST DOING THE WORK MYSELF.”

AKA: “It’s easier for me just to keep doing this work because I know how I want it done.” 

AKA: “Delegating to a virtual assistant just takes too much energy.”

AKA: “It would be a waste to hire someone else to do this when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself.”

YOU GUYS. Just… no. Believe me, I get it. When you first think of delegating, you can feel overwhelmed. Where do you even start? Fortunately, I have a lot to say on the subject of how to go about hiring a virtual assistant (and I can help you hire a VA without feeling totally overwhelmed.) 

The truth is, yes, there’s a little bit of extra time and energy that goes into onboarding a virtual assistant (or an online business manager). But when you find the right VA for your online business, you get that time back in spades. 

Which leads us to…

MYTH #2: DIYING SAVES ME MONEY.

This is closely related to Myth #1 (and they’re both equally false—as long as you’re hiring the right person for business support services.) I wrote a whole post on this recently that breaks down how much more money you can bring in every quarter when you have the right online business help based on real-life examples.

MYTH # 3: I NEED TO SCALE MY BUSINESS FIRST. THEN I’LL BE READY TO HIRE.

If you’re an online entrepreneur who is struggling to get your first clients, then sure. It may benefit you to get to a place where you’ve got some revenue consistency. But if you have fairly consistent clients and you want to *grow* your business? I’ve gotta tell you: you’re ready.

THE TRUTH? IF YOU WANT TO SCALE YOUR BUSINESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL, YOU HAVE TO STOP WASTING TIME ON ADMINISTRATIVE WORK.

Stop:

  • Scheduling clients

  • Fidgeting with your client onboarding system

  • Scheduling your social media posts

  • Setting up your own lead pages

  • Formatting and scheduling your newsletters

  • Tracking down missed payments

  • Proofreading your own content

  • Tracking your own analytics

…just to name a few!

Are you ready to up-level your business? Then you need to be spending your work hours on client-attracting, high-value work. Are you still doing most of those jobs I listed above? If so, you’re going to find it harder to grow your business because you’re not spending your time where it counts. If that’s the case, I’d love for you to check out my Set Up to Scale Up program, where I help creative women with online businesses (just like you!) scale their businesses and increase revenue while doing what they love.

How to Prep Your Business for the Post-Pandemic World

How to Prep Your Business for the Post-Pandemic World

Does the coronavirus pandemic have you afraid to make new offers online? Does selling your services as an online entrepreneur suddenly feel different? Scarier? I’ve heard a few variations of this fear in the past few weeks. Maybe you’re telling yourself: “Nobody is buying,” “I can’t raise my prices NOW,” “I’ll make my offer again when things go back to normal.”

Are these familiar?

Here’s the truth as I see it: Yes, some people are watching their budgets more closely right now because of economic instability.

But it’s NOT true that no one is spending any extra money right now.

In the last month, I bought two fitness programs, a social media content scheduler, and a course on Instagram.

I had 3 new potential clients reach out to me last week.

Things are happening right now in online business. Are things normal? Obviously not. But has all life (and online business) ground to a halt? Also no.

If business is slower than usual for you right now, let me offer a few suggestions so you can have some inspiring wins, even if you’re feeling sluggish.

Tip #1: Prep your business to return better than ever

This is a great time to concentrate your energy on your internal systems. How can your business run better when life goes back to a (little more) normal? What systems can you set up now so that when your workload increases, your work feels better and easier than before?

Take 2 or 3 of your routine business tasks. For each one, write down:

  1. One to two sentences about the purpose of this task. (For example, “Combine all of my business receipts into a folder so I can easily send them to my bookkeeper at the end of the month.”)

  2. The materials you need in order to complete the task (Dropbox, links to a specific website, etc.)

  3. The step-by-step process to finish the task. There’s a couple of ways to do this. The most straightforward is to go through the process and write down the steps as you work.

And guess what? Now you have a documented process.

Benefit #1:

As you write down steps, you’ll be forcing yourself to think through your process. Are there unnecessary steps in it? Are there steps you do out of habit or because they used to be required, but they’re not anymore?

Benefit #2:

Congratulations, you’ve just written a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that you can hand off to a Virtual Assistant.

Tip #2: Acknowledge your wins and address the future

Write down a few recent wins. Even if it’s “I buttoned my jeans and they still (mostly) fit!”

Then, identify one thing that’s working well for you in your life or business (that’s a “Keep Doing”), one thing that’s not working (Stop Doing), and one thing you’d like to try (Start Doing). And honestly, right now? Maybe you can even make that “Start Doing” one optional.

Tip #3: Do some market research

This is the PERFECT time to massage your messaging. Get a sounding board (or a group of them who fall into your “ideal client” category.) Show them a piece of your messaging that isn’t getting results. Maybe it’s your FB ad copy or a sales page. Get their feedback. What resonates? What gets them excited?

Bonus points for setting up a call with a small group and giving each other feedback on one piece of marketing.

Which one of these are you excited to try? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Feeling PRESSURE TO DO MORE during the pandemic? Here’s how to deal.

Feeling PRESSURE TO DO MORE during the pandemic? Here’s how to deal.

A few days ago, I asked people in one of my communities how they were experiencing the stress of the pandemic in their businesses.

One of the most common responses I got was that people are feeling a lot of extra pressure right now. Pressure to:

  • Be more visible

  • Have new offers ready to go, sooner

  • Create more content

  • Be extra nurturing in your communities

Another way to think of this pressure is as an increased sense of URGENCY in response to the Coronavirus Crisis.

Are you feeling this urgency?

Here’s how my friend Wendy of Your Happy Workplace put it:

“I’m feeling like if I don’t continue to put content out and keep myself visible, that’s like neglecting to water a plant (my biz being the plant).”

I really like this plant analogy, does it resonate with you?

Do you feel like you’re neglecting your business if you aren’t creating new offers all the time? New lead magnets or free offers? Going live in all the social medias every day? Dreaming up new and different ways to offer support to your community during this weird time?

Look, I know there’s a lot of noise right now. There are lots of business owners freaking out, and you’re hearing a lot of advice from all angles. And I think, despite our best efforts to tune out the noise and just listen to and process the little bits that we can, we’re still feeling bombarded.

Let’s return to that plant idea. Here’s the thing about plants: they don’t grow when you dump buckets of water on them everyday: they die. Plants don’t need a new kind of fertilizer every week. They don’t need to be dug up and re-potted every month.

They need just a little bit of water. Just the occasional plant food. And time. They’ll grow.

The same is true for your audience. You don’t need to dump buckets of content on them. They don’t need a new freebie every week. You don’t need to present a new offer every month.

Look, you guys know I’m all about productivity. But I’m never an advocate for unnecessary stress or burnout. If you’re feeling extra pressure and urgency right now, here’s my challenge for you. Ask yourself, “Do I have to do this thing now?” And if the answer’s yes, ask yourself “Why?” Then sit with that “Why” for a little while.

Is your “why” coming from a place of fear? Fear that your audience will disappear? That your plant will die?

Obviously, your business isn’t a houseplant. Thankfully, it’s much stronger than that.

Stop. Breathe. Provide what you’re inspired to and leave the rest behind. Your audience won’t disappear.

5 Ways to Know If Your Creative Business Is Leading You to Burnout

5 Ways to Know If Your Creative Business Is Leading You to Burnout

Often, organization doesn’t feel easy for creative online entrepreneurs like you. When you’re multipassionate, trying to corral those exciting and brilliant ideas can feel like herding (mental) cats. Let me ask you a question: does managing your business feel more time-consuming, frustrating, and like just more work than you think it should? Do you ever feel like you’re on the edge of burnout as an online entrepreneur? Does the idea of organizing your business leave you feeling emotionally drained? There’s a good reason you’re feeling that way. Without the right support as an online entrepreneur, you’re inviting burnout and mental exhaustion.

If you’ve found yourself spending way too much money and way too much time on tools that promise to fix all of your admin worries (but don’t work), I might have an idea of what’s gunking you up.

Here are 5 of the most common ways that running your business is leading you to burnout.

Do any of these burnout symptoms sound familiar?

1. YOUR EFFORTS TO STREAMLINE YOUR WORK ARE ACTUALLY CAUSING MORE WORK.

We’ve all been there. We have the best intentions to get organized but then end up getting distracted, redirected, or lost along the way. Here are some classic scenarios:

  • An online entrepreneur recognizes she’s stretched too thin and wants to delegate tasks to someone else. To do so, she spends precious hours of her own time and energy each week/month spoon-feeding this new person information, and creating new To-Do lists for herself to ensure the new team member can do the old To-Do tasks she’s trying to offload. The result is she’s spent the same wasted amount of hours on the same old tasks, it’s just dressed up as “delegating.” (Little disclaimer: Delegating is great! Just make sure you’re inventing the offboarding wheel once rather than setting up a new system that requires the same amount of effort from you each time a task is due.)

  • An entrepreneur sees she’s unorganized and looks for productivity software to help. She chooses the most detailed and intensive one, assuming it will give her the most support. Instead, she finds herself frustrated, confused, and scheduling hour-long meetings with tech support and lost in a customer-support email wasteland. In the meantime, business tasks are being dropped and important items are lost in the cracks thanks to her new confusing software.

  • An online entrepreneur decides it’s time she “gets organized once and for all” and emphatically heads out to buy a planner, pens, sticky notepads, a new water bottle that says “boss” on it, stays up all night reorganizing her work desk, decides to update her email signature, gets a new professional headshot, buys business cards, creates a Twitter account, tries a new website building platform, and creates a mood board and — wait a minute — has she done any work?

A fast way to identify if you’re creating more work for yourself is by answering this single question: “Is the task I’m about to take on going to move the needle on the specific task that needs completing? Or is it simply a new task that runs adjacent or parallel to the task I really need to deal with?” If the answer to the first question is NO and the second question is YES, stop. Refocus. Go back to what you’re truly trying to accomplish.

2. YOU’RE NOT CONSIDERING YOUR NATURAL ENERGY FLOW:

This is so, SO key, you guys! The 9-5pm schedule is not for everyone, especially for creative entrepreneurs!

If you’re dumping your most important items on your plate in the morning and find you’re totally mentally exhausted by lunch, you’re really setting yourself up for a day half-wasted. Instead, try tackling your priorities during the pockets of time you feel your most alert, most creative, most focused, even if that doesn’t mean they’re done “first.”

Perhaps it’s in the early morning hours before your family wakes up or late at night when the rest of the world is quiet. I’ve seen people rock a “2 hours on-1 hour off” format that begins at 8am and ends at 7pm. Sure, they start a little earlier and end a little later, but they have an organic 3 hours of “off-time” built in to tackle life’s other daily needs.

The beauty of rocking your own business is having the freedom (and permission!) to structure your hours in a way that works best for you.

3. YOU’RE WASTING TIME TRYING TO CUT CORNERS INSTEAD OF JUST DOING THE THING.

Tale as old as time. When we feel overwhelmed or emotionally drained, we can sometimes panic looking for ways to avoid the grind rather than *master* the grind. Instead of dropping your shoulders and plowing through the work, you spend your day procrastinating and completing a lil’ bit of this here, a lil’ bit of that there, so on and so forth. Then, at the end of the day, you ultimately didn’t save any time and you have nothing finished to show for it.

4. YOU’RE FEEDING YOUR “MUST-HUSTLE” BEAST AND TEETERING ON THE BRINK OF BURNOUT.

Listen, I know how good it feels to be “in the zone.” However, there is an important distinction between good business management and setting unrealistic expectations on an impossible timeline. While it feels great to get work done, it’s important to remain practical about what you’re asking from yourself. Maximizing your work when your energy is high is great, but don’t plan your projects around that level or productivity forever and always. You’re going to burn out eventually, and all of that momentum and progress you made will be sacrificed and lost in the long run when suddenly you feel like you can’t do ANY work.

5. YOU’VE FOUND YOURSELF IN A CONSTANT STATE OF REACTING.

One fast way to tell if you’re in a cycle of bad online business management is to determine if you are always in a constant state of reacting. What I mean is: You’re playing defense. Your days are spent putting out fires, addressing issues that popped up the day prior, and tackling items as they happen, making it impossible to get started on your own goals and objectives. It’s like trying to fill in cracks in a wall while water leaks through.

Good business support will do two things: 1. Allow you to play offense — i.e. put you in a place where you can be strategic, thoughtful, and innovative about the business moves you want to make and ultimately have space and time to put them into action. And 2.) build you a sturdy foundation so water doesn’t begin to leak through the cracks in the first place. I have a lot more to say about this, but that’s for another blog.

Remember: without the right support as an online entrepreneur, you’re inviting burnout and mental exhaustion.

 

Fortunately, I can help you take the reins on your workflow and implement systems that counteract the pitfalls described here. If this sounds like exactly what you need right now, then I’d love to introduce you to my Set Up to Scale Up Strategy Session package. In just 3 hours together, we can build that solid foundation for the most painful part of your biz.

I promise it’s possible to stop spinning your wheels, capitalize on your energy, maximize your time, avoid burning out, and play stellar offense for your business, and I’d love to help.

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© 2021 The Efficient/Creative   |   DESIGNED BY BROOKE LAWSON

© 2021 The Efficient/Creative
DESIGNED BY BROOKE LAWSON